While the NBA playoffs march on with the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons all gunning for the championship, the business of developing the next champion -- or the chance to at least compete for the title -- goes on behind the scenes at the league's predraft camp in Orlando, where about 60 players are trying to improve their draft status.
Derrick Rose from the University of Memphis is almost certainly going to be selected No. 1 by the Chicago Bulls, which leaves Kansas State's Michael Beasley at No. 2 for the Miami Heat.
Well, not so fast, is the buzz coming out of Florida this week.
"I'm not sure Beasley is a Pat Riley kind of guy," says one team official. "There are starting to be some red flags on him. But he is so talented they may have to draft the talent."
However, according to some personnel types around the league, Miami is beginning to test the waters on the value of the No. 2 pick.
Of course, that's routine. In 1997, the Spurs listened, if only a little bit, when Rick Pitino, as coach and president of the Celtics, offered practically his entire team for the No. 1 pick that would be Tim Duncan.
The thinking is that Riley is concerned about drafting someone as apparently immature as Beasley.
There is a terrific Washington Post story from a year ago making the rounds. It details Beasley's journey to six high schools in five states and quotes him saying he was "just killing time" in high school. Basketball factory Oak Hill didn't ask him back after he averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds during the 2005-2006 season. And he admitted to the newspaper that he wore pajamas to the school cafeteria, threw sticks at teachers' houses, organized late night hide-and-seek games after curfew and signed his name all over campus in graffiti contests.
Beasley's antics were described as mostly playful, but they also crossed over to practices where he'd sometimes mock the coach.
Look, it's mostly kids coming into the NBA. Ask the Bulls about Joakim Noah , who was charged last weekend in Florida with marijuana possession, carrying an open container of alcohol (how else could he drink it?) and various traffic violations. But this is a Pat Riley team, and Miami is a city where most NBA teams try to come in late and leave early so their players don't get in trouble. Now Beasley's going to live there?
Conventional wisdom says the Heat will take Beasley because of his amazing talent. But Riley doesn't do conventional wisdom.
He traded for Shaquille O'Neal when no one thought it possible, and traded away Shaq when no one thought it possible. He was supposed to take a center, Chris Kaman, with the fifth pick in 2003 after losing Alonzo Mourning, but he surprised many by taking Dwyane Wade. The Bulls were among the surprised, as they thought Wade would be there for their No. 7 overall pick.
The Bulls ended up taking Kirk Hinrich, who some personnel executives around the league say could be traded to accommodate Rose. More on that later.
Miami will be feeling teams out, and here's one deal that makes sense.
Riley long has had a flirtation with Elton Brand, whom he tried to sign in 2003. When the Clippers matched the offer, the Heat moved on to Brand's Clippers teammate Lamar Odom. Brand's Riley-initiated contract expires after next season, and many wonder whether Brand will return to the Clippers.
This could be the Clippers' opportunity to get something in return for Brand. It's questionable whether Miami will want to re-sign Shawn Marion, acquired in the Shaq deal, after next season. So perhaps Miami deals the rights to the No. 2 pick and Marion for Brand and the rights to the Clippers' No. 7, which the Heat supposedly would love to use for O.J. Mayo. While it's uncertain Mayo would slip that far, this is one to watch.
The Bulls' situation with Hinrich, say personnel executives throughout the league, also is worth watching. Perhaps as many as eight lottery teams -- the Heat, New York Knicks, Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors -- could use a point guard. Hinrich may not be the classic "one"; thus the Bulls' interest in Rose. But Hinrich is good enough to have been invited to play for Team USA. Consider him a Danny Ainge type, a guard who can do a little bit of everything. He can shoot, defend even the bigger shooting guards and run the offense. He's not at the level of a Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but he has been to the playoffs three of the last four seasons and is too good to sit behind a kid.
If you need a point guard, would you rather take someone like Texas' D.J. Augustin, regarded as the draft's second-best point guard despite being undersized, or trade for Hinrich?
Toronto Raptors point guard T.J. Ford also may be in the trade mix, but he remains a serious medical risk with spinal cord issues. The Raptors are looking to package Ford in a trade along with some of the team's expiring contracts. They intend to re-sign and start Jose Calderon at point.
Other pieces would be required to match salaries, but here's some speculative possibilities for Hinrich:
• Miami for Shawn Marion
• Indiana for Jermaine O'Neal
• Golden State for Al Harrington
• Portland for expiring contracts, like that of Raef LaFrentz, so the Bulls can get into the free-agent market over the next few years for Brand or Wade
• Charlotte for Jason Richardson (he and Gerald Wallace play similar roles); perhaps the Bulls throw in a veteran like Andres Nocioni for new Bobcats coach Larry Brown
• Milwaukee (would Scott Skiles want to coach Hinrich again?) for a contract they want to dump, like Bobby Simmons', with Yi Jianlian thrown in
• New York. Actually, it seems they're saving cap space to make a run at LeBron James in two years.
The Cleveland Cavaliers also are desperate for a point guard, though the talk around the NBA is they want an All Star-type player to pair with James and may be pursuing Jermaine O'Neal.
Only one team will be happy at the end of the season. But this is when optimism abounds for the rest over the possibilities for the future.
kaynak : NBA